Pride on the Big Screen – All Year Round
Everyone heard about Israel’s one and only LGBTQ film festival – TLVFest. By now to keep the audience close throughout the year, the organizers created a special spin-off: TLVFest Movie Club, a monthly screening taking place in the city’s established film theater, The Cinemateque.
Meet Israeli film director and scriptwriter Yair Hochner, the man who decided to boost the creative buzz in Israel, bringing home the most exciting films which are dealing with LGBTQ issues.
It’s quite impressive that a one-a-year festival can extend into all-year-around chain of events. You must be courageous to go with a decision like this.
There was no question about it that the demand was big enough to extend the festival: in 2013 we had over 10,000 people in our auditoriums, We’ve screened over than 250 movies – including shorts and features – and we had twenty-something artists visiting us from all over the world.
You have been very successful in driving the Israeli crowd’s attention on international gay-themed movies. How about bringing Israeli movies abroad?
That is exactly our current mission. We created programs abroad of Israeli LGBT films in such cities like: Oslo, Berlin, Sao Paulo, Montevideo, Athens and many more. Also, TLVFest decided to distribute local movies all around the world. Our first title is “Gay in a Day”, which premiered at our festival in 2012. We’ve asked members of the LGBTQ community to document themselves for one full day, and the materials make up a rich movie-mosaic, showcasing the different meanings of being lesbian, gay, trans or bi.
It’s been several years since you started your mission: connecting cinematography and homosexuality. How is it looking back now at the first baby steps?
It’s crazy to think about it that the first festival took place at Tel Aviv’s legendary CD and DVD store, the Third Ear. We’ve been showing our movies in tiny theaters of about 30 seats each. By next year the breakthrough was on its way: we moved our programs to the Cinematheque, and only openly gay friendly cinema institution in Israel, and the rest is history.
Seems like the gay issue is not the only taboo you are about to break: several movies offer solutions to the Muslim-Jewish conflict, and deals with the subject of religious and secular Israelis. How would you describe your mission in a nutshell?
We at TLVFest oppose all forms of violence, and strongly believe that long lasting peace should be fulfilled through justice for Palestine and Israel. Our work is dedicated to create a safe, harmonic and tolerant Middle East, where everybody can feel home – regardless from being religious, non-religious, straight, gay, or carrier or any other label forced on them by society.
In a rapidly growing metropolis where everything is so profit-orientated it must be tough sometimes to keep a project like this alive. Did you face with many opposers through the years?
Although TLVFest is showing the greatest amount of films in Tel Aviv and we have a very large number of guests from abroad, the municipality discriminates against us. Our budget support from the municipality is the lowest compared to all other film festivals in the city. This fight is our next big fight against the budgetary discrimination from Tel Aviv municipality. Last year the Israeli Film Council decided to stop supporting the festival, but thanks to the voice of our crowd, the decree has been canceled. We are constantly looking for media partners – fashion, beverage, travel, and beauty product, etc. companies – to cooperate with, so we won’t have to be threatened by the boycott of religious groups which are working on shutting us down.
What’s the next big thing for TLVFest?
We are standing by our mission in 2014 as well: as June arrives we’ll hold 8 days of screenings with special shows, discussions and general festivities. Meanwhile the TLVFest movie club continues bringing international LGBTQ movie treats to the Cinemateque: on the 11th of December, starting at 20.30 we are presenting four Israeli Lesbian short movies, and from 22.00 the movie “In The Name Of”, which won Teddy Award for Best Feature at the Berlin International Film Festival.